How to invite magical birds to visit your yard

The hummingbird – Part I

Patricia Hanbidge

Legends say hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration. The hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.

The focus of this column is the hummingbird and how you can invite them to visit you in your garden or other outdoor living spaces. My good friends Brenda and Randy cherish the hummingbirds that visit them at their home at the lake.

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On the prairies there are two species of hummingbirds – the ruby-throated and the rufous. Amazingly enough, both of these tiny birds migrate on an annual basis to Mexico and Central America. Sometimes before you can see these little beauties you can hear the beat of their wings, which “buzz” as they are beating 12 to 80 times each second. Due to this rapid wing pattern, they can hover and manoeuvre quickly.

These tiny birds need to consume 1.5 to three times their body weight daily and feed on small insects, flower nectar and tree sap. Anyone who hangs up a hummingbird feeder can appreciate how wonderful this food source is to these birds. If you sit quietly and watch the birds feeding you can also notice they will aggressively defend their food supply.

Male hummingbirds do not help to raise the young. The females build tiny cup-like nests that are difficult to see as they are concealed among branches. These nests, out of necessity, are often close to a food source. The females will lay two or three pea-sized eggs and within a couple of weeks the young will hatch. The young birds are fed by the females and will fledge within the next two to four weeks. Nesting pairs and their young will often return to the same site each year after migration, so once you have these birds used to your feeding stations, it is a good idea to continue to offer this food source.

You will find hummingbirds in open woodlands, forest edges or openings, meadows, grasslands, stream borders and in backyards and gardens with flowers they like to feed on and those areas which may also have nectar feeders. Watch for these birds that are only 7.5 to nine centimetres in length. The male Ruby-throated hummingbirds have green backs and heads, grey-white bellies and throats and green and black rounded tails with white tips. The Rufous hummingbirds are similar in size with males having reddish-brown backs and bellies, white chests, brown and black rounded tails with orange-red throats and a shiny green patch on their head. The females of both species are slightly larger and less showy.

In general, hummingbirds are attracted to brightly coloured blooms that are in tubular shapes as these flowers typically produce lots of nectar. They will frequent areas with consistent blooms throughout the growing season so they are ensured of a constant food source. Gardeners should deadhead spent blooms to encourage more blooms to ensure your tiny feathered friends do not go hungry!

Hanbidge is the Lead Horticulturist with Orchid Horticulture. Find us at www.orchidhort.com; by phone at 306-931-4769; by email at info@orchidhort.com; on facebook @orchidhort and on instagram at #orchidhort.

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